Nuclear transfer was used to evaluate the developmental potential of nuclei from a spontaneously immortalized bovine mammary gland epithelial cell line (MECL) and from primary cultures of mammary gland cells (PMGC) and ear skin fibroblasts (PESF) established from 3-year-old cows. Cell proliferation was investigated by incorporation and detection of 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU). The proportion of cells in S-phase was significantly (P < 0.05) higher for MECL cells than for PMGC and PESF, both in the presence of serum (90% vs. 28% and 15%) and following serum starvation (27% vs. 6% and 3%). Nuclei from PESF supported the development of reconstructed embryos to the blastocyst stage significantly better than those of PMGC (60% vs. 26%; P < 0.05). Embryos reconstructed with cells from MECL failed to develop to blastocysts. After transfer of embryos derived from PMGC and PESF, respectively, 2/2 and 5/12 recipients were pregnant on day 42. On day 90, the corresponding pregnancy rates were 2/2 and 3/12. One live calf derived from a PMGC was born at day 287 of gestation. Another live PESF-derived calf was delivered by caesarean section at day 286 of gestation. Our study suggests that nuclei from primary cultures of adult cells can be successfully reprogrammed by nuclear transfer, whereas nuclei from a permanent cell line failed to support the development of nuclear transfer embryos. (C) 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.